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NEWS ARTICLE

Elegant Lowtech

Cinema Papers

 

This article was reprinted with the kind permission of CINEMA PAPERS. Roger McAlpine, its author, has been a senior camera operator since 1966, most of it with the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Melbourne, Australia.

 

I was never good at knot-tying. Shoe laces were okay, but bow ties, windsor knots and rope tricks were out for me. I have survived nevertheless, although there were those occasions when I was carrying timber on the roof rack of the car. Then I always seemed to tie at least six silly knots on top of each other in an attempt to gain peace of mind on the way home from the timber yard. I had a secret admiration for those farmers and truck drivers who tied their loads down in a manner approaching art.

 

Well now I’ve joined those enlightened ones, becoming one of the knot-tying brethren, And its all thanks to the Cinesaddle. I bought one three years ago, prior to shooting Embassy at the ABC. Our first two weeks were spent in Fiji shooting scenes with the tropical look. The schedule was very tight and it was necessary to keep the equipment list to the bare bones. It seemed like a job for Cinesaddle! The day I bought it, I took it home and practised knot-tying. It was like studying for an exam as I learnt to tie the Bowline and the Truckie’s hitch. I passed Part A of the exam using a camera-sized road case mounted on the bonnet (hood) and then on the car’s door sill. Part B was done with the real thing and I was relieved and impressed with the way the Cinesaddle held the camera securely to the car.

 

In Suva, the Cinesaddle was a godsend! In addition to car exterior-mounted shots, it was used for all the car interiors. Upon our arrival, we bought a piece of dressed timber, 19 x 300mm (3/4 x 75 inches), and cut its length to fit across the sills of the rear side doors. This became a platform for the camera sitting in the Cinesaddle, and I was able to get shots in every direction. The only snag was with one car in which the window didn’t wind down into the door as you would expect. However, I solved the problem by cutting a piece of timber to fit exactly between the windows but still resting on the sills. The sound recordist thought this was an excellent solution, so did I when it started to rain.

 

Suva is a city where the main roads are all one way. Therefore getting from A to B might be simple but getting from B to A might involve travelling right around the city centre. It took the first assistant director and the production manager a little time to adjust to this enlightened (?) traffic management system. We decided that the simplest way to get to many locations was to walk. The Cinesaddle became a protective basket for the camera, etc., as we tramped the hot and crowded Suva pavements. It also doubled as a welcome seat while we waited for the actors to drive from B to A or a Take 2.

 

 

 

(In fact the insulating properties of the Cinesaddle are excellent. The DOP was seen on more than one occasion wearing the Cinesaddle on his head in the hot tropical sun. It also keeps wine and is very discreet in such circumstances.)

 

I had to resort to underhand measures when mounting the camera on the bonnet of a new model Falcon. The slope is so severe that even with a well-tied truckie’s hitch, the camera had a tendency to slip down the bonnet. Room 147 at the Suva Travelodge came to the rescue by donating its nonslip rubber bath mat to the unit. I must also add that the stone tray on the Falcon is not as rigid as you would expect on a car. It did bend a bit as I pulled up my hitch.

 

For those two hectic weeks, the Cinesaddle was my constant companion, sine then we have bought another and now both ABC grip trucks in Melbourne carry one.

 

It was just as well I learned to become proficient with those knots before going to Suva; the first assistant director used to be a farmer and the sound recordist owned a truck!

 

 

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